AKA: Kick Boxer, Once Upon a Time in China 6, Once Upon a Time in China: The Next Chapter
Year of release: 1993
Genre: martial arts
Director: Wu Ma
Action directors: Yuen Biao, Yuen Miu
Producer: Yuen Biao
Writer: Lee Man-Choi
Cinematography: Bill Wong, Ng Man-Deng, Chan Siu-Gwan
Editing: Chun Yu
Music: John Wong, Tang Siu-Lam
Stars: Yuen Biao, Shirley Lui, Yuen Wah, Yen Shi-Kwan, Wu Ma, Sheila Chan, Chan Shan, Tai Bo
Rated II for violence
Movie Review Index
An unofficial offshoot of the Once Upon a Time in China series, 1993's Kickboxer should ostensibly be a showcase for Yuen Biao's abilities. And, to some extent, it is. But, overall, this production suffers from many of the same problems that the majority of Hong Kong pictures from this period succumbed to, coming off more as a cheap excuse to grind out the last couple of shekels from the pockets of an audience growing increasingly weary on having too many cookie-cutter films in their cinematic diet.
In the movie, Yuen plays Lau Zhai (a different character than he played in Once Upon a Time in China), a prospective student of Wong Fei-Hung who is framed for smuggling opium into Wong's Po Chi Lam school. In an attempt to clear his name, Lau teams up with the local magistrate to go undercover to bust the area's biggest drug dealer, Chairman Wah (Yuen Wah).
Now, this plot isn't really anything deep, but really, martial arts movies don't exactly have to have Shakespearean-level exposition to be entertaining. Kickboxer's big problem that it seems to know that it's going by the numbers, yet makes no attempt to change its' course. This is truly by-the-numbers film-making over the way, to the point that it re-uses elements from other pictures, such as the "no dogs or Chinese" bit from Fist of Fury or the addition of a useless romantic subplot featuring a slightly tweaked version of Aunt Yee from the Once Upon a Time in China movies.
Usually, the saving grace of these types of movies are the action sequences. While the stuff presented here isn't on the level of some of the classics produced, it is good -- it's just that there isn't nearly as much of it as there should be, especially considering the talent contained in the production. In particular, the Yuen Biao versus Yuen Wah climatic (or, rather, not-so-climatic) battle is far too short, coming off more like a teaser than the showstopping spectacle it really should have been.